Cook stands tall as England make good start

Published: Wednesday, March 1, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Nagpur:Debutant opener Alastair Cook score a confident unbeaten 44 to help England reach a respectable 89 for two wickets at lunch on the opening day of the first Test against India being played here today.

At the break, Cook with 44 and Kevin Pietersen with 1 were at the crease.

New captain Andrew Flintoff did a big favour for the injury-hit England squad by winning the toss and promptly electing to bat on a flat wicket.

Openers Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook then proceeded to give their side a good start as India's new ball bowlers, Irfan Pathan and debutant S Sreesanth failed to trouble the batsmen.

Cook scored his first run in Test cricket when he hooked Sreesanth to the square leg boundary for a four in the second over of the day.

Taking cue from Cook, Strauss then hammered Pathan for three fours in the next over, including a flick to midwicket and two back-to-back fours to the point boundary.

Cook then punched Pathan through the off side for another boundary as both the English openers started dealing only in boundaries.

As he grew in confidence, Cook opened out and the best shot of the morning was his superb straight drive which scorched the turf on the way to the fence.

However, the entry of off-spinner Harbhajan Singh in the attack in the 10th over slowed the scoring rate down as he started getting turn and bounce on the first morning itself.

The off-spinner had Cook in all sorts of trouble with a couple of close leg before shouts against the batsmen, being turned down by umpire Aleem Dar.

The openers brought up their 50 partnership in 75 balls. However, a bowling change by Indian captain proved to be successful as Sreesanth, after changing ends to replace Pathan, had Strauss driving away from his body as the edge flew to second slip where VVS Laxman took a stupendous catch to his left. Strauss departed for 28 having hit five boundaries in his 64 ball innings. England were 56 for one at that stage.

New man Ian Bell punched Anil Kumble to the point boundary but did not survive long as Dravid employed a double spin attack from both the ends and fell to a ball from Harbhajan which took the edge and went straight to Dravid at first slip. Bell made nine.

Cook and Pietersen then took England to lunch safely without losing any more wickets, but with the way the ball has already started turning and bouncing for the spinners, the England batsmen have their work cut out after lunch.

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